Coming just a day after reviewing 9—Shane Acker’s animated film where a mechanical doll’s curiosity nearly wipes out the rest of his burlap-wearing clan (cross-reference below)—the shadow puppet rendering’s of young Rocket’s dragon-filled dreams, understandably, paled in comparison.
Yet, except for a marvellous metamorphosis from loving mother to fire-breathing beast, the tots, toddlers and their minders (while delightfully attentive) didn’t seem at all nervous as The Dragon devoured everything he (most certainly couldn’t have been female) came across. His kryptonite was an engaging, wordless tune: a couple of “tra, la, la, las” and once again proved that “Music has charms to soothe the savage breast” (William Congreve from The Mourning Bride, 1697).
Playwright David S. Craig, whose Danny, King of the Basement recently fired here on all cylinders, seems to have lost his narrative focus in favour of a series of spectacular dreams that put the cast and crew through all manner of technical and dramatic hoops. His hero (the voice of Carrie Costello is note perfect if a tad high to convince as male—here we’ve been spoiled by Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson—and ever-capable hands controlling the life-size puppet crafted by Ann Powell and Johan Vandergun) is well defined and just complex enough to hold everyone’s attention. Unfortunately, his saviour (a.k.a. “Queen of Dreams”) doesn’t get much air time and precious little interaction to fulfill the expectation of the show’s title. Perhaps Rocket and the Magical Melody might better prepare the way.
Playing Rocket’s father, Fortress, Eric Woolfe demonstrates a mastery of characterization and brilliant bare-hand puppet skills that make his opening scene one of the best in the show. Linda Carson brings her vast experience to the role of Mother; she’s the ideal concerned parent with a message: “fighting never solves anything.”
All three work frantically backstage with dozens of hand puppets, hand-held lights and a fly tower of mini sets. Aside from the inevitable display of a few human hands at the end of their sticks, the projected tale is great fun to watch as the various characters (notably a hot dog truck, body-arranging vacuum hose and a flying watering can) follow Rocket through his trials and tribulations with his own ferocious fear.
Yet none of this would be possible without the wide-ranging music tracks (Rick Sacks—a composer’s composer, finding just the right hue for every situation: if only some of the fades hadn’t been so abrupt), well-cued lighting (Glen Davidson) and the marvellously-creative set (built by Chris Greenhalgh).
The final sequence of Rocket, high on his former enemy’s back, flying about the galaxy is a wonderful summation of the notion of confronting fear with courage rather than cowardly violence. All that remains to conquer is the ending where the notion that we must be rewarded for getting a grip on our inner selves might find a more meaningful conclusion than hot dogs for breakfast. JWR